The Falcons flirted with a few players outside the building to replace Keanu Neal. They didn’t bring in Eric Berry for a workout, but they did check in on veteran safeties T.J. McDonald and George Iloka. McDonald last played for the Dolphins, starting in 14 games and picking off three passes. Unfortunately for him, he was a casualty as the Fins began ripping their team apart piece by piece. Iloka was a long-time starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, spending last season as a reserve for the Vikings. His best days are in the past, but both of these guys could potentially be an upgrade over what the Falcons have in-house. For now, however, Atlanta has opted to hold off.
Dan Quinn will stick with a few players that have been with the team. Yesterday, the Falcons signed Jamal Carter from the practice squad. He won’t be starting, but he will serve as the backup safety behind Ricardo Allen, Kemal Ishmael, and Sharrod Neasman. Carter made the Broncos squad as an undrafted free agent in 2017, playing sparingly, then missed all of 2018 with a season-ending injury. He attempted to make the Broncos again this year and even switched positions to inside linebacker, but Denver decided to cut him before the season started. On September 1st, the Falcons added them to their practice squad. Along with filling in as the backup safety, Carter can also contribute on special teams.
Since the Falcons opted not to bring in a veteran who could potentially step in for Neal, they will rely on Kemal Ishmael as the starter. Ishmael has been with the Falcons since 2013, playing primarily strong safety but also some linebacker. Quinn praised his ability as a tackler, which is undoubtedly his best attribute, but also said it is going to take more than just one player to replace Neal.
The other name to watch will be Sharrod Neasman. Neasman is currently listed as the backup free safety behind Ricardo Allen. He isn’t the physical presence like Ishmael but is much better in coverage. Like they did for the majority of last season, the Falcons will likely use Ishmael on running downs with Neasman in passing situations. Hopefully, it works out better than it did a year ago, or the clamoring for Dan Quinn’s job is only going to get louder.